Lucretius' Soul Theory Essay

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In his only extant work, the poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), Epicurean author Titus Lucretius Carus writes of the soul as being inseparable from the corporeal body. This view, although controversial in its opposition to the traditional concept of a discrete, immortal soul, is nevertheless more than a mere novelty. The argument that Lucretius makes for the soul being an emergent property of interactions between physical particles is in fact more compelling and well-supported now than Lucretius himself would have ever imagined. Lucretius begins his argument by noting that the mind, far from being separate from the affairs of the body, has been observed to be directly affected by physical forces. He states that “the nature …show more content…

Lucretius expands on this first truth by observing that while the soul cannot have any effect without a body, the effects of physical blows suffered by the body are shared in by the soul. “You perceive the mind to suffer along with the body, and to share our feeling in the body. If the grim force of a weapon driven deep to the dividing of bones and sinews fails to hit life, yet a languor follows and a blissful fall to the ground... and sometimes a kind of hesitating desire to rise” (161). The direct effects of physical injury felt by the body on the mind, he writes, are proof that “the nature of the mind must be bodily, since it suffers by bodily weapons and blows” (161). In fact, Lucretius’ example of a mind weakened by blood loss is only the beginning of the many forms of havoc physical trauma can wreak upon the mind. Relatively recent examples include the case study of Phineas Gage, whose life survived the destruction of a portion of his brain in an accident, but whose personality assuredly did not. According to reports from the company that had employed him, Gage, once the possessor of “temperate habits” and “considerable energy of character,” was transformed by his injury into an individual described as “‘Fitful,’ ‘irreverent,’ [and] grossly profane” (Macmillan 829). In less extreme cases, cognitive functioning and personality are altered temporarily on a daily basis by the consumption of alcohol and drugs or with psychiatric

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